Part 1: Analysis of Context

1. What do we know about our learners?

William Watson Elementary officially opened in February of 1959, in a residential neighbourhood in the central Fleetwood area of Surrey.  It is the only elementary school in the Surrey School District with its own four lane, four hundred meter running track on the grounds. Therefore, the school hosts several meets for the community during the Track and Field season and it is a source of school pride.

The culture of the school fosters continuous parent-teacher communication, and has a very involved parent community, providing significant support towards the achievement of various school initiatives and programs. Our stakeholders support the mission of “striving for excellence in all areas of development for all children.”  Our staff, students and community value academic excellence, a strong work ethic and participation in athletic and artistic endeavors. 

The student population remains relatively stable and currently the school enrolls approximately 360 students from Kindergarten to Grade 7.  The diversity and complexity in student needs varies from year to year.  We understand that the core of a vibrant, respectful and caring school culture is the development of socially responsible behaviour.  William Watson students show tolerance and respect toward their fellow community members and pride towards their school.  The Student Leadership Team focuses on promoting school spirit and enhancing school culture, as well as modeling community and global responsibility.  

2. What evidence supports what we know about our learners?

In 2012, it was noted that William Watson students on average were performing well in the fundamental academic areas of reading, writing and math as evidenced by the Foundation Skills Assessment. Therefore, the staff decided to shift their focus on improving in another area of the curriculum; the Fine Arts.  In particular, teachers aimed to foster children’s enthusiasm and appreciation for the Arts through their involvement in a variety of hands-on activities, exploration of broad range of visual arts media from around the globe, and providing an alternate avenue of self-expression.

According to the Satisfaction Surveys in the next two years, there was an increase in the amount of students and parents that believed in the importance of learning about the visual arts at school. This focus in the area of Fine Arts created fresh dialogue among staff members and students, and therefore, continued to evolve.  With our growing understanding of the curriculum transformation, the staff recognized the need to engage our learners in meaningful and integrated learning experiences to develop the core competencies.

Quality fine arts and applied design programs have cross-curricular connections and can nurture children’s capacity to think creatively and critically.  Both fine arts and project based learning can be a pathway for students to explore, represent and communicate their understanding of concepts learned in various curricular areas.   This has become an integral part of instruction in this school community.  

In 2014, staff began closely examining the profile of the “Creativity” competency as described in the new BC curriculum and in 2016 celebrated students’ progress in this area with a school wide “Creativity and Entrepreneur Fair”. Video Link – Creativity with Maker Space Projects   In May of 2015, William Watson staff engaged in an in-depth exploration of our students’ current strengths and areas for growth in relation to both academics and social emotional learning.  This led to a consensus among staff that an area currently needing more focus for our learners was in Social Emotional Learning (SEL), specifically on Self-Regulation. 

 In recent years, staff has observed more learners at William Watson struggling with emotional competence and resiliency, specifically: impulsivity, attention, and ability to cope with anxiety.  This interferes with their learning and progress. In accordance to one of Surrey School District’s priority practices and the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), social-emotional competence is key to success in school and in life.

 In society today, children are faced with many more social, emotional and mental health barriers to success in life and school.  Social-emotional resiliency affects the development of caring relationships and executive functioning skills.  Social emotional skills help students manage their behavior, attentiveness and learn more effectively.  Research demonstrates that explicit instruction in the development of social emotional skills can improve resiliency and academic achievement.  Currently, there are several evidence-based resources and universal programs that develop social emotional skills for students in classrooms.

Part 2: Focus and Planning

3. What focus emerges as a question to pursue?

How will explicit teaching of self-regulation strategies through the ‘MindUp’ and ‘Zones of Regulation’ programs impact our students’ social and emotional skills? How will building social and emotional skills (self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making) of learners impact their learning environment?

4. What professional learning do we need?

Background Knowledge of Social and Emotional Learning ·      In August of 2015, staff collectively participated in a full day of professional development on the topics of Social Emotional Learning and Self-Regulation.  This workshop created by the district Helping Teacher in SEL and presented by the school principal was an introduction to educational research, theory and instructional practice on both of these topics. In addition, each staff member received a copy of ‘Calm, Alert and Learning’ by Stuart Shanker to guide their professional learning.

Training in Universal Instructional Programs ·     

At the beginning of the 2015-16 school year, staff had an opportunity to explore various universal programs and resources related to Social Emotional Learning.  Staff decided to use ‘Calm, Alert and Learning’ by Stuart Shanker and the ‘MindUP’ curriculum as an instructional resource for classrooms, and received a copy of both these books.  In addition, all classroom teachers participated in a workshop on the MindUP curriculum. ·     

Later in 2016, our teachers recognized they could further improve their understanding on how to implement self-regulation strategies and tools in their classrooms by observing experts in action.  Therefore, some teachers participated in demonstration lessons.  Specifically, four teachers from William Watson visited and observed classroom teachers considered “experts” on the topic of SEL at various schools within our district, as identified by our District Helping Teacher in SEL.  These teachers came back to share their observations with the rest of our staff members at staff meetings. ·      Our school counselor, who trained with ‘Zones of Regulation’ and ‘Second Step’ began co-teaching lessons with teachers in particular classrooms to model their use.  This led to an interest in integrating other programs into our practice. Therefore, at the beginning of 2016-2017 school year, our counselor provided training for all staff on ‘Zones of Regulation’ which is currently being widely used in the school.

Ongoing Professional Dialogue ·     

Since 2015, a representative committee meets once a month to discuss our inquiry focus in SEL, following a cyclical process as outlined in the book Spirals of Inquiry by Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser.  In 2017, this committee continues to provide feedback and shape discussions led with staff, regarding professional learning, structures and supports for this inquiry. ·      At each staff meeting, there is time dedicated specifically for discussion on the topic of SEL and this inquiry.  Grade level teams meet to discuss data (results of surveys), strategies and practices being implemented, and our progress.  

5. What is our plan?

School Wide Structures ·      A steering committee meets monthly to guide and shape this collaborative inquiry.  Representative staff members on this committee provide feedback and shape discussions with staff in regards to structures, measures and supports for this focus.  For example, in 2015-2016 the committee created a student survey on Self-Regulation, organized an assembly, led discussion topics at staff meetings, and created a year-end student reflection template. ·    

Development of a school-wide common language that is visible and recognizable by all members of the community.  The vocabulary is related to an individual’s emotional and cognitive states, specifically their state of alertness, attentiveness and emotion.  Using the suggested framework and language from Calm, Alert and Learning, a poster titled ‘How is Your Engine Running?’ and ‘Are You Ready to Learn?’ was created and posted in each classroom of the school from Kindergarten to Grade 7.  A school wide assembly was held on this topic to ensure all students were consistently aware of this common language.  In 2017, this language evolved to include the four zones of regulation (blue, green, yellow, and red). ·     

In 2016-2017, a school wide self-assessment tool was created for students using “I can” statements as outlined in the competency profile of Social and Emotional Learning by the BC Ministry of Education curriculum. Teachers were provided time to conference with individual students regarding this self-assessment. ·      This inquiry focus on self-regulation is a regular topic of discussion at every monthly staff meeting.  Staff members have met in grade group teams to review student surveys, identify classroom interventions and discuss progress. ·      Information about SEL and this inquiry is shared with parents at scheduled Parent Advisory Council (PAC) meetings and monthly newsletters.  

Classroom Strategies – Instructional Interventions: ·     

Classroom teachers include direct and explicit instruction of skills and strategies on SEL, specifically Self-Regulation, using the lessons outlined in the following programs: MindUp, Zones of Regulation, and/or Second Step. ·      Classroom teachers model and use the common language provided on the self-regulation posters supplied (Are you calm, alert and ready to learn?) with students in class on a regular basis. Teachers will guide students on how to assess their current emotional states at different times and situations throughout the school day to help build self-awareness. ·      Classroom teachers demonstrate calm down techniques for students, such as: deep breathing, counting backward, taking a break, etc. and demonstrate how to express and cope with a wide range of emotions. ·      Classroom teachers incorporate more movement and action breaks during lessons and throughout each school day, such as: Brain Dance, brain breaks, songs and dance, and physical activity. ·      Teachers aim to create a more calm and balanced learning environment in which the physical space is not over or under stimulating.  This includes optional work/seating areas (quiet and noisy zones) and tools (wiggle cushions, earmuffs, MindUp chime, music, etc.) for students to use and self-regulate. ·      Classroom teachers aim to communicate more frequently with students about their social and emotional learning so students can identify their own goals and strategies for learning (metacognition).  For example, recently teachers conferenced with individual students regarding their self-assessment. ·      Teachers at each grade level identify specific interventions for their own class based on the feedback provided by their students in surveys taken in October of 2015 and 2016.  At the staff meetings, grade group partners discuss progress of these intervention(s) and support needed.

Part 3: Reflect, Adjust, Celebrate

6. How will we know our plan is making a difference? (evidence / success criteria)

Measuring A Difference:   In November of 2015, all students at William Watson completed a survey to assess their current understanding of Self-Regulation and perception of their learning environment.  These surveys included questions about how one feels about their classroom environment and copes in particular situations (calm, relaxed, focused, nervous, etc.).  Different surveys were created for primary and intermediate students, with age-appropriate set of questions.  After the initial student survey, staff met in grade group teams to review the responses and identify common themes in their grade.  These themes were used to identify learner needs and possible interventions in the classroom. The survey questions and common themes are included below. SELF-REGULATION SURVEY RESULTS (Themes) Nov. 2015, Intermediate Students When do you feel most calm and relaxed at school? 1.  Silent Reading (gr.4)                               5.  Quiet Room (gr. 6) 2.  Afternoon (gr. 4)                                      6.  Silent Reading (gr. 6) 3. Mind Up Chime (gr. 5)                             7.  Chime (gr. 7) 4. Relaxed Breathing (gr. 5)                       8.  Reading (gr. 7) What helps you feel calm and relaxed at school? 1.  When I am reading (gr.4)                     5.  Mind-Up/Chime (gr. 6) 2. Deep breathing (gr. 4)                             6.  Being with friends (gr. 6) 3. Reading (gr. 5)                                              7.  Quiet activities (gr. 7) 4. Quiet  (gr. 5)                                                   8.  Listening to music (gr. 7) What makes you feel anxious (nervous or worried) when you are at school? 1.  Tests (gr.4)                                                      5. Being disorganized for the day (gr. 6) 2.  Hard work/homework (gr. 4)               6. Noise (gr. 6) 3.  Names (called upon) (gr. 5)                    7.  When I forget my homework (gr. 7) 4.  Tests (gr. 5)                                                      8.  Tests and presentations (gr. 7) What would help you feel less anxious (nervous or worried) at school? 1.  Deep Breathing (gr.4)                             5.  Mindup/Chime (gr. 6) 2.  Less homework (gr. 4)                            6.  Less homework (gr. 6) 3. Time to do homework (gr. 5)                7.  Completing my homework (gr. 7) 4. No tests (gr. 5)                                               8.  Presenting in a smaller group (gr. 7) When are you most interested to learn and able to pay attention in class? 1.  Math (gr.4)                                                     5.  Gym (gr. 6) 2.  When it is quiet and calm (gr. 4)          6.  Math (gr. 6) 3.  Math (gr. 5)                                                     7.  P.E. (gr. 7) 4.  Art  (gr. 5)                                                         8.  When the subject is interesting (gr. 7) When are you not able to pay attention in class? 1.  When it is loud and noisy (gr.4)           5.  High Noise level (gr. 6) 2.  When others are talking (gr. 4)            6.  Math (gr. 6) 3.  Classroom too loud (gr. 5)                      7.  When other people are talking (gr. 7) 4.  Math (gr. 5)                                                      8.  Talking  (gr. 7) What things in the classroom make it difficult for you to concentrate when the teacher is speaking? 1.  When people are talking (gr.4)                          5.  Distraction from peers (gr. 6) 2. When people are fooling around or fidgety (4)  6.  Outside noise (gr. 6) 3. Students talking distracted (gr. 5)                      7.  Talking (gr. 7) What things in the classroom make it difficult for you to concentrate when you are working on your own? 1.  People talking (gr.4)                                                    5.  Other people talking around me (gr. 6) 2. Outside Noise (gr. 6)                                                    6.  When the work is hard, not knowing what to do (g r. 4) 3. People talking (gr. 5)                                                    7.  Loud Noise (gr. 7) 4. Distractions by technology (gr. 5)                       8.  Talking  (gr. 7) What would you change in your classroom to help you concentrate better? 1.  Less talking (more quiet) (gr.4)                           5.  Change location of peers distracting (gr. 6) 2.  Less students in the class (gr. 4)                        6.  Less talking from peers (gr. 6) 3.  Less talking/behavior (gr. 5)                               7.  Fewer People (gr. 7) 4.  Seats so group work is possible (gr. 5)           8.  Ban talking (gr. 7)     In May of 2016, after student feedback had been reviewed and initial strategies had been implemented in classrooms, students were given an opportunity to reflect on their learning in SEL and share what strategies they were effectively using.  Below is a summary from some of these reflection questions. Teachers reviewed these reflections of students in their grade and found overall students were better at recognizing the language and strategies of Self-Regulation than at the beginning of this school year.  One thing noted was the need to also include teacher assessment of progress. YEAR-END 2016 SEL STUDENT REFLECTION RESULTS 1.         I can tell when I am calm and ready for learning.                                         Always             Sometimes             Never              Students            218                  114                           6 2.         I can tell when I am too excited or too tired to focus and learn.                                         Always             Sometimes               Never              Students          179                  127                              22 3.         I can use a strategy to help myself be ready for learning (calm and focused), (ideas headphones, fidget toys, glitter bottle etc.).                                          Always             Sometimes             Never             Students               137                  167                           26 4.         What do you use to help yourself be ready for learning (calm and focused)? Get Active, Use Headphones, Doodling/Drawing, Exercise Break, Wiggle Cushion, Squeeze Toy, Read Books, Drink Water, Deep breathing, Close eyes and clear mind, Drawing in sketch book, Bubbles, Movement, Music, Stress Ball, Clay, Move to Quiet Corner, Flush Away Thoughts and Listen, Put Head Down   In October of 2016, the SEL committee at our school created a new self-assessment tool to track progress of Social Emotional skills.  This tool included “I Can” statements directly from the profiles of the Core Competencies in the area of Personal and Social from the curriculum provided by the BC Ministry of Education. This assessment was completed by every student at William Watson, as well as by their classroom teacher.  The results were collated for each question so staff could review and compare where students and teachers assessed their current progress. Staff has had an opportunity to review and discuss these results that are included below.  It was noted that overall students’ assessment of one-self was very similar to where teachers’ had assessed their progress.  This may indicate our students are becoming more self-aware of their skills.  The assessments that significantly differed between teacher and student were chosen to provide further feedback.  Teachers had an opportunity later to conference with these students one-on-one. SEL Self-Assessment in Primary Classes Results October 2016 When I am feeling sad/angry/frustrated/silly I can use strategies that help to change how I feel and be calm again.            I can keep working on a task/job even if it gets hard.            I can admit when I have done something wrong.            I can solve some problems myself and I know when to ask for help.            If something is unfair I can tell you about it.            I am kind to others and can work and play cooperatively.            I can make and stay friends with people I choose.            In January of 2017, teachers conferenced one-on-one with students that would benefit from further descriptive feedback in SEL to identify strategies and goals they could collaboratively implement this year.  They also set a date to meet again and review progress. Examples of strategies chosen include: daily check-ins, self-talk, silent self-rehearsal, and observing facial expressions of others.   In June of 2017, the plan is to re-administer the same self-assessment tool school-wide.   In addition, staff continues to explore other quantitative tools to assess social and emotional competencies of students school-wide to be inclusive of the multiple domains of SEL, such as; the Assessment/Progress Monitoring Tool from the book Helping Young People Learn Self-Regulation by Brad Chapin or the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment Kit (DESSA).

7. Based on the evidence, does our inquiry require adjustment?